By Alfredo Atanacio, Co-Founder UassistME.COM / Inc. 30 Under 30 2012 / AGLN Fellow.
For over a decade, I’ve had the privilege of managing an LLC company from El Salvador. While this privilege has given me the chance to reflect on the most significant work we have done, it has also allowed me to think about the advantages of outsourcing business processes to El Salvador for our clients.
Although outsourcing to countries in the eastern hemisphere started in the 1970s as a way for US companies to reduce costs, countries like India, China and the Philippines are still some of the most popular destinations for US companies to outsource their business processes today.
As my co-founder and I ventured to set up a remote virtual assistant business, we found in El Salvador a great destination for our project to thrive. It had everything our business needed to succeed, such as proximity to the US, a great talent pool, a dollarized economy (USD) and a similar culture to the US
From 2017 to 2019, my company, Uassist.ME, experienced 60% revenue growth. We’ve been witness to how dozens of our clients have grown alongside us and how our relationships have solidified over time. Investing in El Salvador has been the best business decision my co-founder and I have taken. In this article, I’d like to share why El Salvador is an ideal place to outsource business processes if you’re located in the US
The US is a natural market for Salvadorans. This is because a large majority of Salvadorans have strong ties to the US via family members, since Salvadoran immigrants make up 3% of the total foreign-born population of the US, according to the Institute for Immigration Research. Also, El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, is located at just a four-hour flight distance from major US cities and it’s on US Mountain Time. With all these stats in our favor, we dreamed of making El Salvador a hub for remote services in North America. The country also possesses great advantages that make it easier for US companies to invest, like the use of the US dollar as the official currency, easy access to Latin American markets, neutral US English accents as well as the opportunity to assist the increasing Hispanic population in the US
Currently, El Salvador has a solid business process outsourcing (BPO) local industry and offers an excellent business environment for foreign investors basing their operations in this country.
Today, companies from over 70 countries have outsourced their business services to El Salvador, and around 29,000 bilingual agents have been employed to provide remote services around the world. But I believe the country mostly relies on one attribute that is seemingly unique to most Salvadorans: the excellent customer service they deliver. For BPO companies, the passion and empathy Salvadorans put in every single day is definitely an asset that comes with investing in a country with great human resources.
Among the advantages that the BPO industry brings to El Salvador and the US is that both countries are engaged in a “win-win” relationship. US companies can outsource services at a fraction of the cost, while also allowing them to scale their companies faster. It allows Salvadorans to have access to better employment opportunities by taking advantage of their outstanding language skills and US cultural immersion while living and working from their home country.
Over the years, one of our biggest wins as a business was the fact that we could transform the industry and change the paradigm that only big companies could outsource their business operations. Within six months of operations, we shifted our operations from offering personal assistants to busy professionals to providing remote administrative services and marketing solutions to small companies.
The hard work kept paying off through the years as our company grew each year with our clients. Our most significant growth occurred in 2021 when, due to the pandemic, the world transitioned to remote work. More small and medium-sized companies in the US started looking for talent abroad, and thanks to the effort of all these years of marketing our company online, many companies looking to outsource business services were able to find us and inquire about our services. I believe we were able to bring down the psychological barriers sometimes associated with outsourcing. In the post-Covid-19 context, it is now easier for a company to picture itself delegating tasks to a team that is not physically present in the same office.
One of the challenges you might face when trying to outsource business services is building up trust. In our case, building trust with our clients has been key to our success, but it hasn’t come easy. It has meant years of setting up and improving processes, solidifying company values and committing to our clients’ goals. Another critical aspect to our growth the past year has been balancing remote work with building a company culture and making sure we create safe and enjoyable workspaces for our collaborators.
As a final word of advice, I’d like to highlight the importance of looking out for great company culture in BPO companies. Outsourcing services to BPO companies that have great company culture will contribute in less employee turnover rates and better service overall.
El Salvador is a land of opportunities that is changing the game for hundreds of businesses in the United States. The Salvadoran workforce in my experience has been characterized by being hard-working, highly resourceful and committed. As we venture into this new normal and with digitalization completely taking over the world, I believe that country borders are starting to become less relevant for businesses and that talent and skill over nationality are starting to gain the upper hand. I expect that the BPO industry will continue to grow in El Salvador and around the world over the next few years.